The Focus of Your Love

…Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?…

—John 21:15

Christ asked three times in John 21 if Peter loved Him. In verse 15 the question was whether Peter loved Him “more than these.” We’ve probably heard various explanations for what Christ meant by the word “these.” Some say it is a question of Peter’s love compared to the love that the other disciples had for the Lord. Or whether Peter loved Christ more than he loved the fish they had just caught. Or possibly whether he loved the Lord more than the other disciples did. More generally, I have heard pastors talk about whether Peter loved Christ more than the secular work in which he was engaged.

I think those are all good topics to speculate about and to draw meaning from; however, I would like to draw your thoughts to the idea that Christ was challenging Peter to focus his love on the Lord more than just doing ministry for ministry’s sake. Christ asked Peter to feed His sheep. Peter was asked to do ministry as a result of his love for the Lord.

Called to Love

It is encouraging to hear a veteran missionary talk about the work the Lord has called him to do. They often talk about the love they have for the people, country and culture to whom they are called to minister. Not only is it encouraging to hear from veterans, but it also offers a challenge to us to check and see if we are in love with the ministry the Lord has called us to do.

Sometimes, doesn’t it feel a bit empty for a new missionary to talk passionately about the love they have for the people and culture of the place they are called to serve? They have yet to fully experience the challenges of doing the ministry in a new place or culture. There is no doubt that young missionaries should have a zeal for the work of God. Yet, I propose that above focusing on loving the country and culture, the missionary should focus on loving God first and then a love for the people will follow.

If your love for the Lord is strong then He will help you to love the people to whom you are called.

Having lived in Mexico for a few years, there are many things I love about the country, culture and people. At least I can say that now. But the day I stood in line for 7 hours at the Mexican DMV to get a license plate for a recently purchased car was not a day I was feeling great love for the system. Even less so that night when I was complaining about it in church and a man praised the Lord on my behalf because it went so quickly for me.

There are days that a missionary may not love the country to which he is called. There are moments when he will question whether he has enough love for the people. Yet, if he will remember that he is called to love the Lord first, then his love for the people will grow.

Do You Love Cats?

Let me remind you of the illustration of a little girl who found a stray cat and immediately fell in love. Her daddy had no interest or love for the cat. But as days went by and he saw the love that his child had for the pitiful creature, he too began to love the stray. This love for the creature grew because of his love for the little girl. Because he loved her, he began to love the things that she loved.

It is a simple illustration, but certainly we can learn from this. If you will love God supremely, then you will develop a love for the people that God loves.

Challenge to Young Missionaries

I know that you are excited about your ministry—as well you should be—but don’t neglect to develop your love for the Lord. As your love for the Lord and the things of God grows, you will love those around you properly.

It is possible to develop an unhealthy love for the mission field and ministry. Though we don’t often think of these things as idolatry, you can easily misplace your love for the Lord into people, places and projects. You will then create an idol that steals your focus from the Lord. That is an unhealthy spiritual situation for you and can lead those around you into an unhealthy, or false, relationship with God.

Life on the mission field is filled with stories of victories that you see in the lives of people as the Lord works. There are also great experiences that you will cherish your entire life. But there are also challenges on the field. Going to the field “because I love the people” is very shallow and will not help keep you in the ministry. Because there will be some days that you find it difficult to love the people on the field. For myself, there were times that I did not love the people of Mexico. Yet if you will put your focus on loving God first, then when things get tough on the field you will be there for the right reasons.

Pray and Love God Supremely

Church member, pray for the missionaries you support and encourage them in their spiritual growth. Missionaries are very much like the people in your church. The things you struggle with, the missionary struggles with. The challenges you face daily, the missionary faces. Yet the missionary is going through all of this while on the front lines of the ministry, while in a foreign land, while missing the comforts of home, while battling the forces of Satan for the souls of men. Missionaries need your prayers and encouragement to do the work.

Missionary, love Christ supremely and you will be able to love the people He has called you to.

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